NFC, RFID, EMV, and UICC are related, Part 1

NFC and Business
Near Field Communication (NFC) is a short range, contactless data transfer technology. RFID could be the called the Father of NFC since both technologies are contactless data transfer based and RFID is older. But, while RFID is has a broader transmission range, it is normally used for simply tracking and cannot handle secure transactions. Also, RFID isn't installed in smartphones and requires a separate or specialty scanner for reading the chips data.

By contrast, NFC is open and standards based giving it stability and broader implementation abilities since it can be used for ISO, ECMA and ETSI standards. Plus, NFC integrates Bluetooth handshake and Wi-Fi connectivity very easily.

As mentioned NFC is a contactless technology used in smartphones. EMV, which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, is a global standard for the inter-operation of integrated circuit (IC) cards and integrated card point of sale (POS) terminals. You may have this technology in your wallet right now. The application side of the EMV standard is used in the small gold chip in the lower left corner on your credit card as depicted by the article graphic.

EMV takes a number of names, VSDC from Visa, M/Chip from MasterCard and D-PAS from Diners Club. (Seriously, does ANYONE have a Diners Club card?), and is a standard based technology and all these monikers are the same standard used in the chip on the issuer credit card. The EMV chip and the EMV standards based POS terminal are supposed to be the next generation of interoperability for credit card acceptance around the globe.

This means that all major credit cards using EMV will be on the same standard for the interaction of the physical, electrical, data and application layers of the card and terminal and is accepted globally for payment acceptance and processing. Contactless payments systems like PayPass, PayWave and ExpressPay are using the EMV standards ISO/IEC 14443 for contactless payments. The added benefit of this is that the EMV standard also supports NFC for contactless processing.

Ah!, now you see.

  • We know that NFC is the spawn of RFID contactless technology
  • The EMV standard that allows the POS terminal at the local gas station to process a payment from a credit card with a little gold chip on it is the same standard that also allows that POS terminal to process an NFC based contactless payment
  • The infrastructure for NFC contactless payments at the POS terminal is being rolled out in the current wave of EMV compliant terminals
Whew, this is only part 1? Yes, this is the deep dive that will show why NFC is the emerging technology that could be the contactless technology to bind them all. The next step is to see how this impacts your use of an NFC enabled smartphone.

Bonus points if you realized that the little gold chip is really a microprocessor and the EMV standard used in the application on that chip could also be used as a standard for an application on an NFC enabled smartphone to facilitate a secure payment. But, that is just a tease of part 2...

Part 2 Link